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It’s hard to overstate the significance of the U.S. census in guiding how the country is governed. A granular enumeration of the national population that’s undertaken once per decade, the census count is intended to apportion political representation and guide the fair distribution of trillions of dollars in government funding to cities, states, and tribes. The 2020 census results, which were announced last year, are also poised to play a key role in the Biden administration’s signature environmental justice program, which promises that at least 40 percent of the benefits of government spending on infrastructure, clean energy, and other climate-related programs will be directed to disadvantaged census tracts.

Given the high stakes involved, even minor deviations between the census count and the country’s actual demographics can have substantial knock-on effects. On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released a statistical analysis that illuminated a persistent trend in the undertaking: the undercounting of people of color. Black Americans, Latinos, and Indigenous people living on reservations were undercounted by roughly 3, 5, and 6 percent, respectively. Those undercou... Read more

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